Help me help my son learn about planes. And about learning.
March 14, 2012 4:02 PM   Subscribe

My 11-year-old son wants to learn about jet planes. Help me help him learn.

I want my son to experience the joy of learning something because he wants to learn it. I'm worried about the "forced" nature of learning in school... I want him to have a better experience than that.

So I asked him this morning, "What do you want to learn about? What's something that's interesting to you?"

And it took a while, but eventually he says to me: "Jet planes."

So okay... jet planes. I don't know anything about jet planes. Anybody got any ideas about books, resources, anything else? The MOST important thing is that the learning be joyful & interesting. I want to teach him how much enjoyment you can get from learning something because you want to, so he wants to keep learning... and learning... and learning...

All suggestions are welcome. Especially interested in suggestions from anyone who truly loves planes & aviation.
posted by eleyna to Education (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love what you're doing for your son.

My parents used to take me to the library for this kind of thing. This helps him learn how to pursue his interests as well as satisfying them.

If you don't have a big library near you, there's always the internet. I'm not sure what would be appropriate for an 11-year old. Is the wikipedia page too advanced?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:10 PM on March 14, 2012

No doubt you know about the Aerospace Museum of California near your area. There are a number of jets on display there, along with a summer camp program.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:15 PM on March 14, 2012

And obviously you want to build numerous paper airplanes and see how they fly.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:16 PM on March 14, 2012

Burhanistan, I knew about the museum, but not about the summer camp program. We moved away from Sacramento, actually (I just updated my profile), but I will definitely consider the camp when he's old enough. That's super cool.
posted by eleyna at 4:20 PM on March 14, 2012

You absolutely need to get The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. It's an utterly delightful explanation if now just about every modern machine does its thing. The method is a series of hand-drawn illustrations as if the machines in question were massively oversized and powered by... woolly mammoths. The Amazon link lets you look inside, and there's a classic example of his take on CD-ROMs. It's definitely got jet engines, but flight in general, along with computers, nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, telescopes, pumps, you name it. But it starts with the six simple machines, so it winds up being a primer on engineering and physics in general. Delightful book.

Macaulay also has a series of terrific books on various architectural wonders, like Cathedral, City (Roman, in this case), Castle, Pyramid, etc. Seems he's now got one on anatomy too.

All of these books are totally pitched at kids right around his age, but they're so fantastic that anyone who can read--and even those who can't--should find them entertaining and informative.
posted by valkyryn at 4:32 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Air and Space museums, hands down. They always have great demos about how planes work and you can gawk at the pretties and sometimes climb in them!

NASA has some great online toys for students - I remember there being some in there where you can design planes and see how they fly, but there is a LOT of material and I can't find it right now.

Air show season is coming up, so you may also consider going to one of those. Fleet Week in San Francisco is supposed to be very good, and the Blue Angels are usually there. There may be more local ones to your area.

Also... have you considered flying lessons? An introductory lesson is not that expensive, the pilot would be more than happy to answer all of his questions, and he's certainly not too young to take the controls for a little bit. I was a bit older than he is now when I started, but my parents' thinking was "Well, he'll either love it or get violently ill and at least we'll have an answer!"
posted by backseatpilot at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2012

Aerospace engineer at your service! May I share some of my bookmarks with you and your son?

Airplanes for kids! A site for kids who love airplanes!!! Yay airplanes!

Fighter Includes prop fighters as well. How subsonic.

Flight Deck Simulations. Your son can know what it looks like where the pilot sits.

To Fly is Everything, for some aviation history.

The Oops List. Because sometimes jet planes crash. :(

Air show schedules. Take him to see jet planes in person! Please, can we go?!

Airtoons! Because I like aircraft flight safety cards. OK, yeah, not really for your son, I just like aviaition humor.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

No 11-year-old should learn about jet engines without learning the hallowed principal by which they work: Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:35 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A subscription to Air and Space Magazine official magazine of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, kept me fascinated in planes for years. I started getting it in 4th grade.
posted by rockindata at 8:35 PM on March 14, 2012

And from a long time pilot and old airplane guy-
the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program.
I mean, a free airplane ride with someone who loves to get kids hooked on flying? Oh yeah!
posted by drhydro at 10:15 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

drhydro's got it, but perhaps I can add on: I used to work on the consulting side of aviation, and if there's a common thread among the hundreds of airports I've visited it's that the people who work at the businesses on an airport love to talk about airplanes, and getting a kid excited about them would make their day.

Most airports have a type of business called a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) - sort of like a one-stop shop for people who fly and travel by private airplane. It looks like the closest airport of any size near you is Placerville. PVF has an FBO run by El Dorado County and seems to be a well-reviewed and friendly place. They also appear have an EAA wing as drhydro said. The runway is a too short for jets, but the airport is home to over 100 smaller planes of different types, and it's a small enough airport that an 11-year-old and his parent won't set off alarm bells.

My advice is to call or stop by the airport - the FBO is bound to be the biggest business on the airport (they seem to have a Hertz desk, maybe look for that sign if you have trouble). Tell them your story and see if they can do anything for you. Someone there has to be willing to let a kid sit in and walk around some planes. If you're lucky the mechanic shop will have an engine opened up for repair. Then move up to the Young Eagles program.

It's a small industry, so whoever you talk to there will also know who to talk to at a bigger airport with some jets.
posted by OHSnap at 11:58 PM on March 14, 2012

This is possibly a little advanced but in a couple of years you could try to make your own jet engine from a couple of thermos mugs, some jbweld and a sieve.
posted by koolkat at 2:30 AM on March 15, 2012

Go to a big airport one afternoon and hang-out under the landing pattern. Watching a 747 land will cement his love of airplanes forever.
posted by lstanley at 6:58 AM on March 15, 2012

I'm really excited about this because I used to work there, but the Smithsonian Institution's How Things Fly webpage is more or less an online recreation of their How Things Fly gallery. It's definitely kid-oriented and goes through it all! Woohoo!
posted by Chutzler at 7:04 AM on March 15, 2012

Wups, I linked the wrong stuff, but you get the idea.
posted by Chutzler at 7:06 AM on March 15, 2012

« Older A guest bed that can be hidden away   |   Help me keep my computer and camera charged on... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.